Fearing embarrassment, third gender shies away from voting in Bengal
Though many in the transgender community in Kolkata voted under the 'others' category for the first time Monday in the last phase of the Lok Sabha polls, the majority shied away from getting inked, fearing embarrassment.
In April, the Supreme Court ruled that transgenders be treated as the third gender. The ruling also said the third gender should be considered a socially and economically backward class and be entitled to job reservation.
Two years ago, the Election Commission had allowed enrollment of transgenders under the "others" category in electoral rolls. Since then, 28,314 transgenders have been registered across India with the Election Commission.
They voted for the first time as "others" in this general election.
In West Bengal, only 513 transgenders are registered under the category and 257 were eligible to vote in Monday's polls in 17 constituencies.
However, activist Ranjita Sinha said very few of the 257 turned up to exercise their democratic right.
"Even though many were registered under the 'others' category, not all could come out and vote as they feared they would be questioned and their credentials would come under the scanner because of their appearance," Sinha told IANS.
Sinha said around four-five lakh transgenders reside in the state.
"I think around 20 percent of the 257 could vote. But we have to wait for the final figure," she said.
Sinha, a third gender and project director of the Association of Transgender/Hijra in West Bengal, said her organisation supports as many as 20,000 transgenders and the majority have voiced concern about facing an embarrassing situation in poll booths.
Pointing out the disparities in identity proofs, she said many were placed under 'others' in the Aadhaar card whereas the same people were recorded as 'male' or 'female' in the voter identity card.
"The Election Commission should have expedited the process of getting the transgenders registered after the verdict," said Sinha, who cast her vote as a 'male' in Elgin Road area in central-south Kolkata.
Her voter identity card says 'male' while her Aadhaar card places her under the 'others' category.
"The commission should have paid more attention to the transgenders and should have worked with community-based organisations and NGOs to get more people to vote," she said, lamenting the lack of cooperation from the state government in terms of welfare schemes.
(Posted on 12-05-2014)